The Ragged Coast (Big Sur)

Well, we’ve arrived back home after our adventure to the West Coast.  Carmel-by-the-sea was the town that we stayed in yet again this year with our favorite Hostess (Michele)!  She treats us like family and shares her lovely home with us crazy Ohio peeps. Shout-out to Michele and her cutie of a dog Ben…much love to you both!

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We spent most of the week wandering, as we always do.  Walking the coastline, hiking parks and just being looky-loos.  This year, we traveled a few miles up the road to Big Basin State Park.  This park is known for it’s beautiful redwood trees and challenging trails.  We set out to roam the 10-mile loop trail on a beautiful sunny day.  Once we arrived and figured out where the path actually started, along with navigating a few closures, we headed into a stunning forest full of trees that seemed to reach the sky!  The first part of the loop was going really well, but I did notice the temperature jumped quite a bit as we were doing our trek.  Surprise!  The temps in California can jump substantially in a short distance of travel.  We were used to upper 50’s and 60’s in Carmel…well, it had jumped all the way to 88 degrees at Big Basin.  This almost caused a “meltdown” in me big time.  We hadn’t figured in the higher temps when loading up our gear with hydration.  I had a 20 oz. bottle of water along with a snack.  For a 10 mile hike in cooler weather, that’s perfect.  In 88 degrees of sunshine, not so much…lol!  I’m typing this now, so you know we made it…but it was close.  I slammed some fluid the minute we reached the ranger station and snack facility.  That brought me back to life!  All in all, it was a beautiful day, and hike.

The race this year was spot on for weather.  We had overcast skies, cool temps with just a touch of humidity (75%) LOL! Karla and I had a case of the sillies on the bus ride to the start while taking a selfie, and then there was an issue with the window next to Karla.  It kept falling open, bringing chilly air into the bus.  Now, I don’t mind the cool air, but there were plenty of other runners (Karla included) that didn’t care for that.  So, Karla ended up holding the window a good portion of the trip to the starting line. (You’re a good egg Karla Jean).

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We met a fellow Ohioan on the bus who just happened to be from the same area that Karla’s brothers live in.  She was nervous as all get out because she didn’t think she’d make it before being swept from the course.  They allow you to go an 18:30 mile pace before being removed due to time allowed for the road to be closed.  We did our best to calm her and gave her some helpful strategy to get through on time.  I told her the most important thing was to enjoy ever minute she was out there.  Take in the beauty of the course.

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We got lined up for the start which consisted of walking up a serious hill from the park we’d been stationed at prior to the race.  Once at the top, you cross the timing mat and off you go.  I told Karla that I would start out running and we’d just see how the body responded.  Who knew my body would feel so good that we just kept running!  The first stop wasn’t until about mile 3 and that was to shed clothing and take on fluids.  We kept with the run walking thing for over the first half of the race.  I thought it best to switch back to walking, as I’d been training for walking over the past month.  I didn’t want to temp the running Gods too much…lol!  We maintained a very nice pace in the 14 minute mile area.  The course was every bit as beautiful as I remembered and I just really took everything in.  We stopped and took some pictures, enjoyed the music, dancing and other goodies along the way…including free beer!  Right Karla?  Everything was just great!  Karla hadn’t pushed me too much about running until we reach the last .2 of the course.  She absolutely wanted to come across the finish line running.  I grumbled, but gave into her request and started hauling butt!  We came in pretty fast…which in turn gave us some pretty special finish pictures…lol!  (see Karla…we should have walked in and taken better pictures) 🙂

If you ever have the desire to visit California, this is a great race to do and they offer numerous distances to attempt.  From a 5K all the way to a full marathon.  Getting into the full is done by lottery…so keep that in mind if you sign up.  The 21 miler gives you all the great views and more time to complete.  So, it’s walker friendly.  This race is definitely a bucket list run…so go do it!

For 2020 we’re taking a year off from California and seeing what other races peak our interest.  I’ve put my name in for the London Marathon, but it’s a lottery and chances are super slim.  What the heck…there’s only one go around…yes?

In my closing this time, I’d like to give shout-outs to some people that accomplished some goals they’d set out to crush.  Alicia Colombaro completed her first ever Half Marathon this year at the Glass City in Toledo!  Way to go lady…I’m super proud of you!

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Big Michael J. Porter ran his first sub 3 hour Marathon this year…also at the Glass City in Toledo.  That is a serious accomplishment brother, I can’t even put into words how cool that is.

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Jessica Knapp…who continues to do amazing races all over the place!  She marched through tough weather to finish multiple distance races over the weekend…on trail!  Congrats Jessica!

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Thanks to my wife Karla Jean for helping believe in myself during the 21 miler.  As some of you already know, I had a rough patch this Winter that caused me to need a surgery, followed by getting pneumonia.  Prior to all of this, my left knee was giving me all kinds of issues.  I’ve stayed true to my walking, pushed every day to reach recovery and with Karla’s belief in me, we had an awesome race!  I’m proud of myself for knowing my limits and yet, still pushing right up to the edge of them.

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The Big Sur 21-miler is in the books for 2019 and I’m hopeful for an excellent training season this summer to prepare for my first attempt at a 50 mile Ultra Marathon.  More on that as we move through the season.  Thanks to all that continue to follow, and please, keep on following.  Things will get interesting as the year passes.  You never know where and when I’m going to show up!  This Zombie can still run!  Continue to push yourselves for whatever goals you’ve set and rock them!  I’m always available to meet up and do a hop with those in need of a partner.  I have a great cast that are also available. (Karla, Patti and Leanna) Now get outside and play!

I’ll see you on the road!

~Zombie~

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New York City Marathon Wrap-Up!

The anticipation of waiting 9 months for a single race, at times can be overwhelming.  I signed up for the lottery drawing sometime in January for a race that is held in November.  The odds were heavily against me getting in, but I thought…what the hell!

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I’d sworn off doing another marathon after getting into the Big Sur last year.  The distance is tough and the training is time-consuming.  Not to mention, I’m getting older and things just love to break…lol!  I’d had to go to my favorite foot doctor (Dr. Gregory Black) in the previous year and was telling him about the Big Sur Marathon.  He then told me, “if you want to make a marathon your last…make it New York City”.  He went on to tell me all about the race and that it was bucket list run for him.  When I’d left his office, it seemed to stick in my head…I really should do that race.  Thanks for that Dr. Black!

So, after the craziness of going through the sign up procedure, handing over my credit card number first, the waiting game began.  The lottery system is done in a single day and they tell you that the way you usually find out first, your credit card is charged the almost $300.00 entry fee. (ouch!) I was working afternoon shift on the day of the drawing.  I kept checking emails and my credit card account through out the day.  Just before I left for work, I got a hit on my credit card for the entry fee!  I was pretty sure at that time that I was really getting in.  I started seeing social media light up with people who had received emails and was stressing because I hadn’t received an email.  Deep into my shift…around 10:20 p.m., I received “the email”!  I read it through several times and it really didn’t sink in at first.  Then the rush of emotions hit…I announced to my co-workers that I’d been selected to participate in the New York City Marathon!  I’m a crybaby….so, I may have been in tears…lol!  The people at work were super excited and very supportive.  They knew how much I wanted to get into this race.  Now, the date was set and it was official.

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The year of races and training went well and I really had no stresses about going to the marathon.  Then, one of the races I’d planned to do a month prior, my first Ultra Marathon came up.  The Hennepin 50K.  I blogged about this race in a prior entry.  The race was amazing, the people were so cool and I was with family.  The race went well, we all felt great and finished!  It wasn’t until I returned home that I noticed my hip didn’t want to settle back in.  I had a limp and was sore.  I headed for my super Doc (Dr. Odeh—at Genoa Medical).  I gave him the run down on what was happening and that I was less than a month away from the New York City Marathon.  Once I explained how hard it was to get into this race, I then said…”Doc, you have to get me through this race”!  He gave me a shot in the hip and told me to take the next few weeks off entirely from running.  Talk about stressful words…stop running?  How would I ever finish a marathon if I didn’t keep training.

The day drew closer to leaving for New York and the body was easing on the pain front.  I would just have to rest and believe that all the training I’d done during the summer and my ultra would be enough to see me through the race.  While the hip felt better, the demons of doubt were hanging around in the back of my mind.  Would this be my first DNF?!  No, Not the New York City Marathon…I wouldn’t let it happen!  There was too much riding on this one.

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I’ve shared all about my sister Gini and her fight for life.  She received the gift of life in September and received new lungs.  She’d been fighting ever since the operation to stay alive and the stress on the entire family was mounting.  I wanted to make New York about Gini.  This race was dedicated to honor my sister who has been a care giver for her entire life.  I can think of no one more deserving in this world than her.  The pain I was going through and would be going through to finish this race was nothing compared to what she’d felt for so many years.  The pain she was feeling trying to breathe again and survive.  Yes…New York was Gini’s race!  I’d finish if I had to crawl across the finish line!

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The big day arrived in New York.  The city was just a buzz with excitement and you could just feel it in the air.  I woke up completely free of stress, none of the usual nerves were going.  The calm was almost surreal.  I prepared my gear, said a prayer, kissed my wife and left for my bus ride to the runner’s village near the starting line.

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The day could not have been more perfect!  Cool temperatures, no wind, low humidity and perfect cloud free blue skies!  The bus ride to the starting area was wonderful.  Getting to see the city in all it’s glory…it just shined that morning!  I get it now, why so many seek out New York as their home.  It took my breath away.  I arrived at the runner’s village, found my area to wait and found a piece of ground to call my own for the next couple hours.  I enjoyed a bagel and some other pre-race snacks and listened for my corral to be called to line up.  When the moment came…I was ready!

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While waiting in the corral with a portion of the almost 54,000 runners that had showed up, I just took the time to take everything in.  I was really here and this was the day!  I’m not sure if she could hear me, but I was talking to my sister while waiting for the cannon to fire.  Telling her that it was time…time to make a turn for the better, time to reach out and grab life!

This race is everything that I’d ever heard and then some!  I was greeted at every single turn by thousands of screaming people who were just happy to see you and cheer you on to success.  The city wanted you to make it…they wanted you to finish this race, and you could feel it.  The love that I felt on this day, at this race can never be matched.  In all of my years of running, I’ve never felt anything so wonderful.  There were neighborhoods that were having block parties, people sitting on roof tops, hanging out of windows, lining every single street.  They were all there to greet you and welcome you to the greatest race in the world!

The miles went by quickly and my lovely wife was seeking me out at several different locations on the course.  We first met up at mile 7.  Just seeing one another brought tears to our eyes.  The emotions from the race, the love from the city, the thoughts of my sister and seeing the woman I love just brought everything to a head.  I ran up to her and we hugged and gave a quick kiss.  My good friend Jolene Siana (who lives in New York) was standing by, taking pictures and video of our meeting at mile 7.  Thank you Jolene for being so amazing to both of us!

Karla was hoping to catch me a couple more times, but getting around the city with the race going can be tough.  She caught me at about mile 22…asked me how I was doing.  I gave her the standard answer…”everything hurts, but I’m good”.  She knows me well and knew at that time that I wouldn’t let anything stop me from getting to the finish.  The next miles were just beautiful!  I was in the area of Central park, it seemed as though there were even more people lining the streets now.  Screaming, cheering fans of all of us runners were just everywhere!  I stopped a couple of times to just really take it all in.  The beauty of the moment.  I wanted to remember this until my last day.  I was just about to the finish when I came upon a lady who was suffering greatly with cramps.  Her steps were small and you could see the pain she was in.  I stopped and offered to help her in…at the very least be emotional assistance.  This was when I got to see the strength and drive of a runner.  She said “I’ll make it, I’m going to finish, now you go…go on and run”! She kissed her hand and tapped me on the shoulder with it…wow…just wow!  I crossed the finish line…it was everything I knew it would be…and yes, I checked on the lady I met…she finished as well!  I pulled my phone out and took a picture of the medal resting on my chest.  The first person I sent it to was my brother-in-law Jeff Feller.  I said “This is coming home for Gini”.  When I arrived back in town, we went up to see Gini at the Cleveland Clinic, where I was able to present the finishing medal to her.  To see her eyes full of life and the smile on her face, well, it touched my soul.

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If you ask me today would I run it again, I’ll tell  you No.  I could never script a more perfect day!  I’ve been spoiled by this beautiful day, perfect weather and a wonderful cast of runners.  This was not only a bucket list run…it was a run of a lifetime!

Thank you to all the many people who followed me during this race.  To my co-workers for being so loving and supportive.  To my wife for going many miles around New York just to see me for moments. To my friend Jolene for making us feel how wonderful her city can be, and to all of you people that continue to follow me through my running and life adventures.  I’m grateful for every step I’m able to take and enjoy sharing them with all of you.

I’ll see you on the road!

~Zombie~

The Hennepin 50K Wrap Up!

My cousin Marilyn Matevia and I started chatting last year about Ultra Marathons.  She shared with me at that time that she secretly had always wanted to finish one.  It was a bucket list run/walk that she felt the need to tackle.  I personally never really gave too much thought to doing an Ultra, but I told her if it was her desire to do it, I’d be all in!

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Due to a crunchy knee from years of running and injuries, Marilyn was planning to do the Ultra as a full walk.  Now, if by chance you’re thinking…what’s the big deal…it’s only walking. (yes, people do say silly shit like that) Take into consideration that this is a 31+ mile walk, done at night and you’ll be on your feet for some 12 hours, fighting your body and anything that mother nature has to throw at you.  That’s some walk…huh?!

My plan was simple…cross the finish line in the upright position! LOL!!  We had almost an entire year to devote to the training and made the decision to sign up.  I broke the news to my wife and my sister Patti.  They both jumped on board with no hesitation.  (Well, maybe a little bit) Marilyn’s plan to walk meant some extra company was in order for her.  A couple of  good friends of hers Tammy Galloway and Pamela Galloway-Anderson decided to join in and walk the Ultra as well.  We were ready!

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As you would expect, life got crazy between the conception of doing the Ultra and reaching the starting line.  We chose a great race in Illinois called the Hennepin 100.  The race consisted of a 50K (31 miles), 50 miler and 100 miler.  The 50K was also started at night…or rather late afternoon that quickly went dark…lol!  Finding time to train got tough for everyone.  Long work hours, long commutes (for Marilyn) and family struggles.

My sister Gini Feller has been fighting RA Rheumatoid Arthritis for many years.  This brought about problems with her lungs and she had been getting sicker as the year went on.  It became bad enough that she was added to the Lung Transplant list with Cleveland Clinic and with each check-up, moved further up the list.  It turned out that Gini got “the call”…just a short time before the Ultra race.  She was to get to the clinic because they had lungs donated that were a match!

There were tense moments through the surgery and daily ups/downs.  Once we were given the o.k. to travel…that she was stable, we loaded up our gear, pictures of Gini and decided to make our adventure about her.  This run was for Gini!  There was no amount of struggles or pain that we could encounter that my sister wasn’t already going through to live.  This was a driving force for all of us.

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Race day was a mostly cloudy, kind of cool day in Illinois.  We ventured on our bus ride towards the starting line  with all our gear checked and ready.  Once the horn went off, we found ourselves on a crazy trail of grass, stone, old asphalt, you name it, we were running on it!  We had a canal on our left for most of the run and trees a plenty.  Once darkness set in, it was really dark!  We all turned on our headlamps and an extra flashlight to spot any tripping hazards, and just ran.  The aid stations came up about every 5-6 miles.  I found that Pringles and ginger-ale were my new best friends during this long run…lol!  We decided to just count the aid stations and keep a nice pace.

We ran some 15+ miles and then switched over to a run/walk combination to finish.  Running a mile and walking a mile became the standard for quite a while and worked rather well for all of us.  This switched to all walking after about marathon distance.  We were still clicking off a 14:40 minute mile pace with walking and were getting anxious for the finish line.  The rain began to come down on the last couple miles.  The last 1/4 mile or so we decided to run it in and finish strong.  The feeling of crossing that finish line with the official mileage of 31.87 miles was a shot of adrenaline!  I felt tired yet electric!  I high-fived my wife and sister, gave hugs and said “this one was for Gini”.  She kept us strong the entire way and it was my honor to carry her the distance.

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My cousin Marilyn was still on the course but had sent a text saying she was staying strong and moving through the 20 mile area.  Her group completed the challenge in a touch over 12 hours.  When she returned to our hotel, I gave her a hug and said “You’re an Ultra Marathoner”!  The dream became a reality!  Many fun discussions were had over this weekend and dreams were realized.  Hearts were filled with anxious moments for our sister fighting and deep love for family.  I always try to get people to go out and move and to challenge themselves.  I absolutely hate hearing “I can’t do that”.  Something that I was gifted with from my father.  He wouldn’t hear those words and wouldn’t allow you to be a quitter.  No one quit…including Gini!  She’s fighting hard with her new lungs and has overcome some serious challenges as of this writing.  We all love her and will continue to support her journey.

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I was asked by a good friend after the race.  Dan Woods, founder of the RunJunkees online running group.  “Are you coming back to do the 50 miler”?  I smiled and said…”I just might have to do that”!  Never say Never!  Every challenge brings new life.  Isn’t that what life is really all about?  Think about it…

I’ll see you on the road!

~Zombie~

This one is for Gini…

My fellow Zombies,

On Monday, September 24, 2018…my sister Gini Feller received a call from the Cleveland Clinic that a healthy set of lungs had been graciously donated and she needed to get to the clinic immediately to receive this gift.

Let me tell you something about my sister Gini.  She’s a lifelong caregiver, she’s worked as an RN for almost 30 years now.  Her mission from childhood was always to look out for others, to assist in their recovery and to make sure there was a tender, caring person by their side, regardless of their illness.  Gini is a one in a million kind of person.  She gives selflessly.  Her bedside manner is one that all people should experience in their time of need.  Even as her own illnesses consumed her body, she went to work every day!   38949085_10212542899109449_7903163128026759168_o

I’m sharing this story now because Gini is in need of our help.  The transplant surgery went well, she’s currently in stable condition and working through the daily process of getting healthy again after such an unbelievable surgery.  You can imagine the cost of such a surgery, as well as the expense for my brother-in-law to be in Cleveland and for the loss of work for both.  A GoFundMe campaign has been started by my sister’s best friend in the world (Teresa Swanson).  I’m asking for any amount of donation that you can afford.  This fund will go directly to Gini, to assist in the cost of her recovery.

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This weekend is a scheduled Ultra Marathon for my cousin Marilyn, my sister Patti, my wife Karla and myself.  It will be our first Ultra ever and it will be done with pictures of Gini on our race gear.  The initial idea was to use this race to raise awareness of Rheumatoid arthritis…something Gini has suffered with for years.  Now, it’s become a run for hope…for the recovery of my sister.  I will carry my sister in her time of need, each and every mile.

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Please join me in this adventure that will start on Saturday, October 6, 2018.  Follow my Run Zombie Run Facebook page for updates on the race and my sister.  Help me make this weekend all about Gini Feller!  I’d love to just blow the roof off of the set goal for the GoFundMe Campaign.  I want my sister to know that she’s made such an impact in this world that we all want her to continue.  So please…click on the page and make a difference:  https://www.gofundme.com/gini-feller-medical-expenses

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Thanks as always for following me.  Thank you in advance for thinking of my sister Gini Feller!

I’ll see you on the road

~Zombie~